Yoga for people with arthritis

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Founder of YOGADOO Lucy Aston was asked to go to the world-famous Royal Mineral Water Hospital in Bath to speak with doctors about the benefits of yoga for patients with arthritis and to run a relaxed yoga session for the Registrars. 

But what are the benefits for people with arthritis? Yoga is proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical and psychological symptoms. Moving medicine: Ankylosing spondylitis exercise that includes yoga can be extremely helpful when you're living with symptoms like back pain, stiffness and inflammation. 

Practicing yoga regularly can:

(Physical)

-       Reduce pain

-       Increase joint and muscle flexibility (stretching)

-       Improve physical function

-       Build muscle strength

-       Improve balance

-       Potentially improve pain management

-       Reduce inflammation

-       Increase range of motion

-       Lower blood pressure

-       Improve muscle tone

-       Maintain weight levels

-       Improve posture

-       The deep breathing of yoga also offers benefits including improving chest expansion

(Mental)

-       Lower stress.

-       Enable a form of regular exercise

-       Mindful practice

-       Promotion of self love and self care

-       Promote a great connection between body and mind

-       Yoga’s emphasis on introspective thought can help pinpoint sources of pain or anxiety and learn to relax those areas

-       Relaxation techniques may improve anxiety spells and poor sleep

-       Examining lifestyle patterns.

-       Energises to combat fatigue

-       Brings clarity of mind

"Yoga not only safely exercises the muscles, ligaments, and bones in and around the joints, but also triggers a relaxation response that can help reduce pain and improve functioning.”

-        Sharon Kolasinski, rheumatologist Univ. of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine

 

Can Yoga Fight Inflammation?

Many forms of arthritis, involve inflammation, a process that causes joint swelling, redness, and pain and eventually destroys the joint components. Yoga may be a gentle, soothing form of physical activity for someone with RA or a similar disease.


An osteoarthritic joint is one in which the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones has lost elasticity and deteriorated. Cartilage, unlike most of the body's other tissue, doesn't have its own blood supply. Instead, it relies on the joint's natural lubricant (called synovial fluid) to shuttle nutrients and waste in and out of the area. The more they bend, the more fluid circulates through them, increasing the ability for even greater movement. As you age, you tend to move less, and the joints don't get the same fluid circulation. In addition, over time your joints suffer more wear and tear, including that from minor misalignments, possibly a genetic propensity for the disease, and the result can often be osteoarthritis

"Yoga's extreme range of motion sends fluid into the obscure corners and crevices of each joint,"   Loren Fishman, a physician at Columbia University and the co-author of Yoga for Arthritis.

 

To be aware of?

Yoga is gentle enough for most people to do every day, says Dr. Kolasinski. Yoga classes or private sessions can be expensive, but you can practice a yoga routine on their own at home, using a videos or printed yoga instructions, once you’ve learned from an instructor.

Finding the right instructor is key, who not only understands arthritis and shows you how to modify poses, but should help create an overall program that fits with your goals. Some teachers focus more or less on the mind-body connection or meditation aspects of yoga than the physical poses and flexibility benefits, it is important to find an instructor or class that focuses on what you need.

Just be careful not to overdo it, and be mindful if you experience any pain or discomfort. Never overtax a joint that’s flaring.

Some yoga poses may need to be modified for people with arthritis, you may also need to use a chair, a block, a strap or other aids to help maintain balance during some poses

Before starting a yoga programme, speak to your rheumatologist or GP to ensure that yoga is right for you and discuss what modifications might be appropriate for your condition.

 

Seven poses which can help those with arthritis, obviously being mindful of any painful areas and modifying accordingly

**Cow - Get on all fours with your hands shoulder width apart, your wrists right under the shoulders, and fingers spread wide. Your knees should be hips' width and right under your hips. Now bring your chest forward, up toward the ceiling, as your shoulder blades press down toward your waist, and tip your pelvis up and back so that your sitting bones are reaching up. 

AS Benefit: Improved flexibility and stretching of the spine.

Modification: Do the poses on elbows or wrists on blocks

 

***Cat - Reverse the Cow Pose to do Cat. From all fours, pull your navel in and up to round out your spine, arching away from the ground. Reach your hips back toward your ankles to increase the space between each vertebra. 

AS Benefit: This may help stretch and lengthen the spine, improving flexibility and posture

 

*** Forward bend – hands on blocks – breathe out from pelvis to legs straighten – engage toes pull them up.

AS Benefit: Lengthens the spine

 

*** Bound Angle pose – four corners of feet press together – hands by hips gently lift up, then lie down on back. Bones heavy inside light.

AS Benefit: Calming/cooling pose, restoratively opens hips.

 

**Child's Pose and Extended Child's Pose

 

 

This is a really gentle and easy way to stretch the lower back. Get into the pose by dropping down onto your knees, spread your knees wide and bring your big toes together. Sit your hips back onto your feet or heels and reach your arms forward onto the ground. 

Extended Child’s pose-  Drop down onto your knees, spread your knees wide and bring your big toes together. Sit your hips back onto your feet or heels and reach your arms forward onto the ground. 

AS Benefit: Improved flexibility and stretching of the spine and hip flexors.

***Supine Twisting

“Gentle twisting should be beneficial, but as with any other pose, if the twist causes any pain, come out of it immediately,” Harris said. Lie on your back, draw your knees toward your chest, and wrap your arms around your legs, giving yourself a little hug. Rock a bit side to side or back and forth.

Now, take your arms out into a T, scoot your hips to the right, and move your bent knees up and over toward your left elbow, taking your gaze to the right. Hold and breathe into the twist. Then gently bring your knees back to center, scoot your hips a bit to the left and take your bent knees up and over to the right, gaze to the left, to switch to the other side. 

AS Benefit: A massage for the spine

 

***Bridge Pose Lie in a supine position on the floor, bend your knees, and set your feet on the floor. Exhale and press the insides of your feet and your arms into the floor. Push your tailbone up, firm your buttocks, and lift them off the floor until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over your heels and lift the upper part of your hips toward your belly button.

AS Benefit: This can help with posture